Quackery may be defined as medical fraud, where individuals disguised as medically skilled persons deceive the general public into thinking that the cure to a disease is with them. Without any medical qualification they depict themselves to be doctors and put patients at risk. It is unfortunate that there is no specific law relating to the menace of quackery which explains the high number of quacks in the country today. There being no mechanism for identifying such individuals is an attraction for many to indulge in quackery..Rather than the Indian Medical Association advising patients to check the validity of doctors, the Legislature should take an initiative, wake up and enact a law curbing the phenomena of quackery.This article looks to identify laws/statutes which try to curb and punish the act of quackery. Primarily it studies how quackery may fall under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and also looks at other statutes such as Indian Medical Central Council Act, 1970, Indian Medical Council Act, 1954 etc.
What is Quackery
As the fierce kidney scam of Gurgoan shook the beliefs of many, it was only one of the various scams that may have gone unnoticed. As a survey declares “the number of quacks in our country exceeds the number of doctors. Even if one quack causes the death of one patient in one year due to wrong diagnosis and treatment, nearly 95,000 silent murders take place across the country”, it had become almost necessary to investigate quackery.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a quack as “a person who pretends to have medical skill or knowledge”. The FDA defines health fraud as “the promotion, for profit, of a medical remedy known to be false or unproven.” It is said that judgments about individual methods should be based on whether or not there is scientific evidence of effectiveness, However, quackery is not confined to charlatans exploiting their victims but also extends to the sale of inappropriate products, or even manufacturers advertising specious products. Lately quackery has been on the rise especially in the rural areas. The outbreak of chikungunya was a boost for the trade of quacks. A survey conducted by AIIMS showed that 93% of the Delhi slum dwellers depend on quacks for medical treatment which accounts for the fact that there are over 50,000 quacks in Delhi. There are plenty of products circulating the market that do not meet the standards. The sources may appear bona fide but may not be. As stated by S.N. Mishra ‘The central government does not appear serious about the problem of quackery’ which helps us understand the apathy towards the anti-quackery bill that was proposed after the kidney scam.
The law does not define or deal with quackery expressly and thus, this article proposes to locate the laws that look to curb and punish quackery and bring to light the problems lying therein and the need for measures. Indian Penal Code, 1860